Hypertension places stress on several organs (called target organs), including the kidneys, eyes, and heart, causing them to deteriorate over time. High blood pressure contributes to 75% of all strokes and heart attacks. It is particularly deadly in African-Americans.
Risk of complications or rapid progression of hypertension become more likely in the presence of other risk factors, including significant elevation of blood pressure, increasing age , smoking, abnormal cholesterol levels, family history of premature heart disease, obesity, diabetes, coronary artery disease, or other evidence of vascular disease.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for hypertensive heart disease, the leading cause of illness and death from high blood pressure. Hypertensive heart disease is a group of complications that include:
Coronary Artery Disease. High blood pressure contributes to the thickening of the blood vessel walls, which can cause or worsen atherosclerosis (accumulated deposits of cholesterol in the blood vessels). The end result is coronary artery disease (CAD), also called ischemic heart disease, which increases the risk for angina (chest pain), heart attack, stroke, and death. High blood pressure is the most common risk factor for heart attack and stroke.
Heart Failure. High blood pressure increases the heart's workload. Over time, this can cause the heart muscle to thicken. As the heart pumps against elevated pressure in the blood vessels, the left ventricle becomes enlarged and the amount of blood pumped by the heart each minute (cardiac output) goes down, a condition called left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). Without treatment, this can lead to heart failure.
|Click the icon to see an image of a hypertensive heart.|
Review Date: 04/06/2010
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.